Garden writer Sally Cunningham offers some helpful tips on selecting and caring for a Christmas tree in her column today. Now what about decorating it? Anyone who has admired a professionally decorated tree knows there are tricks to be learned. We asked experts to share a few.

Whether your tree is fresh or faux, think deep, said one.

“It’s best to get your lights in and out (on the branches), not just on the surface so that you have some depth to your lighting,” said Mike Monnat, one of the floral designers at Woyshner’s Flower Shop and Christmas Shoppe on Ridge Road, Lackawanna.

“The same thing with ornaments. You want to get some in deep, and then you want to get some on the surface. So when you look into the tree, it’s exciting – not just one dimensional,” he said.

Another tip: If you’re working with an artificial tree, it’s important to prep it for decorating.

“The biggest thing is that people don’t fluff the branches open,” Monnat said.

Elaine Schmitt, of Dave’s Christmas Wonderland on Union Road in Cheektowaga and Transit Road in Amherst, agreed, and elaborated on what they tell customers about today’s pre-lit artificial trees: “When you put your artificial tree together, you need to spend time shaping it properly. Put the base in the stand, plug it in and shape your branches. If you pull out a light, you’ll know where you pulled it out. You carefully add one section at a time and shape your branches. If you shape the base of the tree well, no matter what you hang on it will look really good, ” she said.

Next step: “You’re going to run a separate tree cord – if it’s a pre-lit tree you can’t plug into that line anyway – and add your topper, your angel, anything lighted or animated and plug into that so you don’t overload the main line. Then you put your garlands on – either tinsel or beaded – and your ribbons. The last things to go on are your precious collectible pieces – your ornaments – and your tree will be done. But you need to take your time,” she said.

A few other tips:

• For choosing decor on trees with sturdy branches, think large ornaments and decorations, suggested Artie Vanderpool, one of the designers in this weekend’s Lewiston Tour of Homes (

“Don’t be afraid to place large pieces in the tree – sometimes not even ornaments but things you can pull from around the house,” he said. One idea: decorative lanterns (not with burning candles, of course). Just be sure the items are of a safe weight and material for the tree.

• Instead of using manufacturers’ standard hooks on a green tree, Martha Stewart recommends using green floral wire as ornament hangers because it disappears in the branches. Here’s her technique: Thread a 5-inch piece of wire through the ornament loop; twist the wire around itself several times to secure. To hang, wrap the other end of the wire around the branch until the ornament is secure.

Another Stewart tip: Put larger balls closer to the center of the tree, smaller balls on the tips of the branches.

• Finally, remember to decorate safely. Check lights for wear and brush up on proper usage. Anchor the tree properly. Keep the safety of pets and children in mind when choosing decorations. Read Sally Cunningham’s column for safely caring for real trees and, for artificial trees, any manufacturer’s instructions.